'Untruthful, unfair, inaccurate': Uni blacklists Critic

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The university said Critic was ‘‘a prime example of untruthful, unfair, inaccurate and mean-spirited reporting’’.
The University of Otago will no longer answer media requests from student magazine Critic, a decision the magazine’s editor describes as an insult to students.

In a statement the university said it was ‘‘choosing not to engage with Critic’’ because of its apparent ‘‘sluggish’’ response when asked to help get Covid-19 information to students, and for ‘‘mean-spirited reporting’’.

It has also pulled all of its advertising from the publication.

Critic editor Sinead Gill. Photo: ODT
Critic editor Sinead Gill. Photo: ODT
'An insult to students'

But editor Sinead Gill has fired back with a statement of her own, saying the university’s refusal to respond to its media requests ‘‘on the basis of perceived slights is not just an insult to the work we do, but an insult to students’’.

‘‘Students want to know what is going on with the university, and Critic is frequently entrusted to investigate their concerns. By refusing to respond to questions, Critic believes the university is refusing to engage with the issues that concern students.’’

The standoff appears to have stemmed from a recent editorial titled “University f**** up covid response”.

The university said it was ‘‘a prime example of untruthful, unfair, inaccurate and mean-spirited reporting’’.

It was prioritising the welfare of students and staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, it said.

'Shallow, unbalanced and mean-spirited reporting'

‘‘It is within this context that we especially value the mental welfare of University staff. 

‘‘It is not professionally or personally sustainable to add Critic’s modus operandi to their work and mental burdens at this challenging time. 

‘‘University staff have had repeated demoralising experiences with Critic in recent months. This has included inaccuracies, unfair, shallow, unbalanced and mean-spirited reporting, sometimes including naming and shaming.’’

The university said it was not given the opportunity for a right of reply before the editorial was published.

The University of Otago clocktower. Photo: ODT files
The University had not made a Media Council complaint against Critic. Photo: ODT files
The university also accused Critic of being slow to help with the Covid-19 response.

‘‘We really needed Critic’s help weeks ago, and in this context it was hypocritical for an editorial to now criticise the university when Critic was sluggish to help us get important messages out to the very students they should care for.’’

Ms Gill disputed that characterisation of Critic’s response.

‘‘Critic has complete media independence from the university, and was instead taking our lead from OUSA, our parent organisation, who also launched a Covid-19 campaign.

‘‘Critic has reported on how the Covid-19 response by the University affects students.’’

OUSA president Jack Manning said: "We are saddened that this is the university's approach".

"The Critic will no doubt continue to report on student-centric matters, without university input."

'University will not respond to Critic’s questions'

Ms Gill said Critic had sought clarification about the complaints, but had received none other than reference to the opinion piece. It had not received any complaints from the University until its statement.

‘‘Critic is deeply concerned at the university’s unwillingness to be criticised by its students.

‘‘We do not believe that accusations of “inaccur[ate], unfair, shallow, unbalanced and mean-spirited reporting” reflects the strength of our reporters to communicate campus news to students in a way that students want to read.’’

She said opinion pieces did not require a right of reply because they were the opinion of the author.

‘‘We realise that the university’s current focus is on the response to Covid-19, but cannot accept at any point that the university is no longer open to scrutiny by the very students who pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend it. That is wrong,’’ Ms Gill said.

The Otago University Students' Association has disaffiliated with the Elohim Bible Academy. Photo...
The university also accused Critic of being slow to help with the Covid-19 response. Photo: ODT files

Critic had contacted the communications team for clarification, and to request details of the “inaccuracies” and “naming and shaming”. It received no response, she said.

The University had not made a Media Council complaint against Critic.

‘‘Critic will continue to contact the University for clarification, balance, and right of reply on every story we run in accordance with journalistic principles, and with the hope that they will one day reply to us.’’

The university said its communications staff were dedicated to the pandemic response, and it would continue to engage with the ‘‘many media outlets who will report with accuracy and fairness’’.

‘‘For now, the University will not respond to Critic’s questions. If there are Covid-19 or lockdown-related problems that Critic raises on students’ behalf, we will try and seek individual responses for those students involved and will discuss these with those students directly if they wish to come forward to discuss them with us.’’

Comments

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About time Critic was recognised as the insult to journalism it is. I haven’t forgotten the menstruation issue or the local body election coverage. It is not clever to be offensive, outrageous and nothing else. Grow up, Critic. With rights come responsibilities.

I see the University isn't putting a name to the person or entity who say "Critic was sluggish to help us get important messages out to the very students they should care for." Would it be the same person or entity at the University that was calling for there to an exemption to the Chinese nationals travel ban for their students. The hypocrisy of the University management is severely damaging an outstanding institution of which Dunedin was once proud.

An 'Entity' is a liminal presence, at the University.

It is entirely inappropriate of the University to behave in this way to the publication that is by far the favoured publication of the students. It highlights the inability of management to hear negative feedback on their actions. A failing that is well and truly known by staff and students alike, and has continued consistently for years. Yes, everyone is perfect in the upper echelon and don't you dare suggest otherwise...

You're quite right Fish, Professor Hayne does have a Trump like aversion to fair criticism. I fear they are both somewhat thin skinned in that respect.

Having read the article online the decision by the Uni is on the heavy handed side. The Critic and the Students Association is completely independent of the University. The University is not obliged to support the Critic and personally I'm surprised they didn't do this years ago given that the magazine continues to descend into a cesspit of appalling and repulsive imagery and content, just for shock value it would seem.

Quoting: We realise that the university’s current focus is on the response to Covid-19, but cannot accept at any point that the university is no longer open to scrutiny by the very students who pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend it. That is wrong,’’ Ms Gill said. (ends)
Ms Gill is making a ‘consumers’ rights’ argument, that education can be seen as a commodity to be bought and sold and the customer is always supposed to be right. Or else they might take their business elsewhere.
But my opposing view is that true education starts off with an attitude and a state of mind. It is life-long and nothing to do with ‘gate-keeping’ and credentialism. Maybe if the liberal arts subjects hadn’t been virtually destroyed there wouldn’t be a generation of philosophical barbarians claiming to ‘represent’ students and concerned about nothing but their ‘rights’ to say or do whatever they like. As writer, Frank Herbert, said, ‘That’s why the young are so wise: they are born knowing everything.’

When University education was provided free for all who could benefit from it your point would stand Diane. However, since policy shifts by governments of varying hue around the world have comodotised higher education, the expectations of the fee paying clients have to be taken into account. This is something Professor Hayne doesn't seem to appreciate which is something of an omission in one who comes from the commercial educational background that has long been a feature of the U.S. system.

You are quite right about education having been ‘commodified’, giving many young people a demoralising debt burden but it goes further than that. The public ( supposedly) financing method is ineffective and unsustainable; employers are often not satisfied with the ‘product’; a whole generation has no conception of civic engagement, vital to effective democracy and I see university management (everywhere) as struggling to keep a sinking ship afloat while needing to make assurances that all is well or the students will abandon them for the competition. And, worldwide, university staff are exploited as part timers with low pay and heavy workloads.
And thanks for actual DEBATE!
I posted this link on another ODT story on the same topic.

https://publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/issue-brief/v2n6.php

https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/campus/university-of-otago/university...

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